And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.—Matthew 6:12
The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys was one of the longest running feuds in American history. One family lived in West Virginia, the other in Kentucky, on opposite sides of the Big Sandy River’s Tug Fork. Conflicts developed, one person was killed, and then another. And by the time it was over, more than two dozen people were dead.
Our society doesn’t value forgiveness. In fact, forgiveness is often seen as a sign of weakness, not strength. Our culture esteems vengeance and payback. We believe in the old adage “Don’t get mad; get even.”
But in what we know as The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
The word debt in this verse could be better translated “sins.” In other words, forgive us our sins—or our trespasses or our shortcomings or our resentments or the wrong we have done or what we owe to Him.
Contrary to what we may think, we don’t go through a day without sinning. Even if we might not break a commandment of God, we certainly fall short of a standard of God. We have sinful thoughts and attitudes. We commit sins of omission, failing to do good when we could have done it. The Bible says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
We need to ask God every day to forgive us for our sins. And as we receive that forgiveness, we should also extend it to others. According to Jesus, our generous and constant forgiveness of others should be the natural result of our understanding of the forgiveness God has extended to us.
To put it simply, forgiven people ought to be forgiving people.